Monday, November 24, 2014

Book Review: The Queen by Steven James

The Story: An FBI agent balances investigating a serial killer with a seemingly typical murder suicide case that is thrown his way. Soon, however, he realizes that there’s something bigger going on than just a murder-suicide, something involving international assassins, spies, and terrorists. As he sets out to discover the truth behind it all, he is forced to face dark family secrets, and comes up against some of the world’s worst villains.

My Thoughts: I had been interested in reading the Patrick Bowers series for awhile. When I came across a cheap copy of this volume, I snatched it up, figuring that if this book was good, the rest of the series would probably be worth reading as well. Now that I’ve finished reading it, I’m hoping that the other books can live up to the high standard of this one, so that I’ll have a whole series of excellent thrillers to read.

Despite a large cast of characters and a complicated plot, the author is always clearly in control, guiding the story through a variety of twists and turns and intense action sequences, while also looking deep into the hearts and minds of the people involved. The good characters are far from perfect, and seeing them struggle to do right in trying situations is part of what made the book so compelling. I look forward to joining them for other stories in this series.

Content Overview: Numerous violent scenes, several of them graphic enough to bother some readers. A few non-explicit sexual references.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Movie Review: Lilo & Stitch

The Story: After being created by a mad scientist and captured by the intergalactic government, a destructive alien escapes to earth. The ruthless little creature chooses a human girl to shield him from the agents who pursue him, but as the girl’s kindness starts to warm his heart, he has to choose between turning from his wicked ways or continuing on his dark, lonely path.

My Thoughts: A bit like E.T. crashed into a typical children’s animated film, this movie is more coherent and entertaining than that analogy might suggest. Watching a seemingly heartless monster slowly be tamed by love is, in this somewhat goofy setting, quite amusing, and surprisingly, the story goes deeper than that.

Rather than settling for the typical message about the importance of family, the story vividly illustrates the necessity of learning selflessness in order to make a family work, and that element makes this film much more memorable than it would otherwise be. The colorful animation and setting fit perfectly with the quirky story.

Content Overview: Crude humor, some mild innuendo, and the potential for children to imitate the bad behavior of certain characters are the only real concerns, and they’re prevalent enough that parents might want to watch this film first before letting small children watch it. There’s also a bit of mild violence and scariness.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Movie Review: Krull

The Story: A hideous creature with a nightmarish flying castle settles onto a fantastical planet, seeking to conquer it as he has conquered many other planets. Soon the beast slaughters most of the planet’s inhabits and kidnaps a beautiful princess to be his bride. The prince who is engaged to the princess must gather up an army of outcasts so that he can fight back against the monster’s conquest and rescue his beloved.

My Thoughts: Krull deserves to be far better known and respected than it is. It is a bit like a mix between The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, and while it’s nowhere near equaling those films, it was perhaps the best live-action epic fantasy film for around two decades until The Lord of the Rings toppled it from its throne. The only movie that could compare was The Dark Crystal, which was technically live-action, but used elaborate puppetry to perform the characters.

Krull has many things going for it, including many spectacular special effects and a story with numerous original elements, such as the villain’s flying fortress and a unique cyclops. It also has a few significant flaws, including story holes, occasional stiff acting, and some special effects that look dated. Since the movie has so many brilliant moments and an adequate overall execution, I found it easy to see past the flaws and enjoy this fantasy classic. It is still one of the best fantasy films ever made.

Content Overview: Violent and scary scenes pop up frequently, but are generally mild. Polygamy, seduction, and other such topics are mildly referenced.